In 2020 and 2021, I looked back at the numbers for shows, as a bit of a canary in a coal mine kind of gut check.
The facts as we know them:
- overall representation has been declining
- there are fewer shows with queer rep than in previous years
- the pandemic absolutely hurt TV
- we get more canceled shows than new ones with queers
So how are things doing now, a year after the last time I took a look?
When I wrote my last post about 2021’s long impact on representation, I noted that 2020 had 480 shows on air.
Here’s what the original table looked like:
And here’s the update:
|2021||467 (47%)||881 (254%)||20 (10%)|
|2020||513 (33%)||1058 (87%)||39 (1%)|
|2019||515 (30%)||1054 (65%)||46 (1%)|
|2018||526 (17%)||1053 (28%)||41 (0%)|
|2017||502 (16%)||929 (-62%)||41 (37%)|
As always, the reason for this change is due to a number of factors, one of which of course remains human error. Also we’re constantly adding in shows (the backlog is stuck around 100) so data shifts. But in this case it’s interesting because this alters the net loss in an interesting way.
Again, the numbers are update from last year to give a better picture:
Immediately you can see that the numbers are not good. In fact, in the last 6 years, 4 have been a clear decline in shows. That said, you can also see that for 2017 and 2018, the numbers improved slightly. Not a whole lot, but enough to actually make it more clear that the covid line of 2020 is that break-point turn.
This also means last year’s theory of “Hey, maybe we are inching to better…” was wrong.
If red is above blue, we’re losing shows more than we’re gaining. As you can see, 2017-18 was the start of the change. There was a dip back in 2019 to gaining a little more, but since then it’s a rate to the bottom and not in a good way.
We’re both losing shows at a faster pace and losing more than we gain.
How Were My Predictions?
I was wrong. I was thinking things were starting to improve. But if there’s anything this summer brought us, it was a red-wedding type massacre of TV shows. Perhaps if the CW hadn’t had a full on self-implode disaster of a buyout (disastrous to us), maybe we would have made that tick up. But I can’t just point at one network.
Everyone is dropping shows like rotten bananas lately. Netflix even is killing off great shows like First Kill and then butchering their entire animation department. Speaking of animation, the galling reality of what happened to everyone over at HBOMax sticks in my craw.
Michelle and Robert King (of The Good Wife / The Good Fight / Evil fame) spoke to THR earlier this year, and said something that caught my attention:
Do you worry about a show like BrainDead, which ran for only one season, suddenly being raptured from a platform and lost to time?
MICHELLE There’s way too much to worry about. God bless BrainDead, but I cannot spend my nights awake, worrying about it being taken off Paramount+. (Laughs.)
ROBERT I’ll tell you what I worry about. We don’t have copies of it anywhere. We don’t have DVDs. If I need to remember a line that we used, to make sure we’re not copying ourselves, I go on Paramount+ and find it.
MICHELLE We could probably get copies. Or we could videotape it?
ROBERT With my iPhone? (Laughter.) Well, I’ve got to tell you, you hit on a sore point for almost all showrunners everywhere. They’re horrified by this sense that the work that they spent so much time on could just be, as you say, raptured up into the sky. And sometimes it’s being done by people who don’t have a creative bone in their body.
MICHELLE That’s the bigger worry. Books go out of print. It’s not the first time this has happened, but it does seem to be happening for all the wrong reasons.‘Good Fight’ Duo Michelle and Robert King Have Concerns About Where Hollywood Is Heading by Mikey O’Connell
More and more it’s clear we don’t own our copies of media. Without hard-copy, and with networks like HBOMax actually pulling previously aired shows from all purchases (including Amazon), we’re going to lose a lot of fantastic shows.
Not even the creators will have a copy.
The content is just gone.
That is bone chilling to me.
Which makes my prediction for next year to be … more of the same depressing cancelations and loss, at least on ‘traditional’ TV.
Where is the hope?
The hope is self-made media.
We have a lot of web series, and we add them all the time. Guess what? That’s going to be the best place to get your fix. And the good news is, unlike the very early days, quality is much better. Those early web series (even Carmilla) were rough to watch. But the kids? The kids have access to phones which have better quality than my Super8. They have the internet to teach them how to frame a shot. They have years of vlogging and quick videos for Instagram or TikTok, and they get it.
So the change will come from them, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do!